The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush

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Napatan period 9th c.–4th c.736 – King Piye (747-716) invades Egypt 593 – Napata sacked by (possibly) Egyptians 3 1st BC 4 350 – Meroe (possibly) sacked by Aksum 1st AD Front cover image: Ankh symbol imported into Napata (2nd Kingdom of Kush). BC–4th c.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush KINGDOM OF KUSH Millennium BC 1 Kerma 2500–1500 2 Egyptian New Kingdom 1550–1069 3 2nd Kingdom of Kush. British Museum. AD 3rd 1 2nd 1500 – Egypt invades and destroys Kema 2 1070 – Kush becomes independant of Egypt 780 – Capital moved to Napata c. 4 Meroitic period 4th c. Millennium AD .

It may have served as Kerma’s royal audience hall. circular in plan. and some of mud brick. Source 1 Other inhabitants of the city appear to have lived in houses of irregular layouts that were clustered in four separate residential districts. Welsby and Anderson 2004: 80 Source 8: Circular audience chamber. and quarters for family members or for servants. In fact. described by Bonnet 1986: 11 Source 5: Temple © www. the size of certain houses suggests there was an elite class that watched the areas where goods were sealed and trade took place. These held cereals (sorghum) and dried fish.ch Source 6 There was a large building. . the height of which dominated the townscape. Charles Bonnet has estimated that there were some 150 or 200 households.ch Source 4 The central block reserved for the owner had two or three floors.ch Task Make a brochure for tourists visiting the city of Kerma in 1700 BC. of grass on a wooden frame.kerma. reached by a staircase. the first capital of Kush. with a conical roof. Dozens of jars were stored in the basements. including a wall 10 metres high. Around the main building were kitchens with large bread ovens. perhaps as many as 2.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 1: WHAT WAS THE CITY OF KERMA LIKE? The outline of the city of Kerma. Many of the houses were of the traditional circular plan. and roadways linked the gates and main structures.kerma. Wealthy houses in the city. Morkot 2000: 66 Source 3: Model of city with Deffufa (white building) © www. and deffufa © www. These houses are of different sizes and are noted for their courtyards and gardens. where bread and probably beer were prepared for use as offerings. but others were rectangular of stone construction. Several bakeries with batteries of ovens have been found. each with a particular function.kerma.000 people living here. It appears that it was made up of several different sectors. some almost 5 metres in diameter. has slowly been emerging from the sand. Four gateways gave access to the city. It was surrounded by a series of smaller huts. along which were the houses of the high officials of the kingdom. Bianchi 2004: 85 Source 7 All around [the Deffufa were] large avenues. Bianchi 2004: 83 Source 2 The royal city [Kerma] was surrounded by substantial fortifications.

surrounded by annexes in which attackers could easily hide.. Adams 1977: 201–202 Source 5 The Western Deffufa. Kerma © J Anderson Source 3 Reisner thought the Western Deffufa was the fortified residence of an Egyptian governor general of Upper Nubia. it was a solid rectangular mass of mud brick more than 150 feet long and 75 five feet wide. however. given the description in source 1? Source 4 The Deffufa is certainly not a fortress. an outcrop of natural rock.. Within this solid mass there were no rooms and only the remains of a narrow winding stairway which had evidently led to the top of the structure. Likewise.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 2: WHAT WAS THE DEFFUFA? The Western Deffufa rises out of the desert at Kerma looking a bit like. clearly man-made and archaeologists have been puzzling over its exact purpose and significance. so as to have the landing parties ready for them. It seems clear to me that the Kerma Deffufa was designed as an enormous watchtower. It is. in particular.. hardly seemed to match the needs of military architecture.. Here are some of their theories..  Which one seems the most likely. built by his orders. did not seem to fit in with its role as a fort. It would undoubtedly be to the advantage of the king and his officers to have first news of the coming of the boats. and probably stood considerably higher than the 60 feet that are still preserved. Originally.  What are the different explanations for the Deffufa in these sources? 2.. Bonnet 1986: vi Source 6 The presence of rooms at all four corners of the building. which its outline suggests. with its extraordinarily thick walls of baked brick seems like the local replica of an Egyptian temple. Adams 1977: 199–200 Source 2: Western Deffufa. Source 1 The Western Deffufa is one of the most extraordinary structures in Nubia [Kush] and the only one of its kind. More recently. Trigger 1976: 13–14 Questions 1. however. Hintze has suggested that the Deffufa was not Egyptian at all but part of the palace of the king of Kush. in its decayed state. Bonnet 1986: 14 . Here surely is one of the depots or factories from which emerged the great Nile trade. the placing of the entrance.

In at least one of these the ruler was laid out on a bed of glazed quartz. we might suppose that these burials relate to a single family. On several occasions. was accompanied by a woman and an adolescent.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 3: WAS HUMAN SACRIFICE PRACTISED AT KERMA? Archaeologists uncovering the burial ground at Kerma came across tombs that were quite unlike those in Egypt.ch Source 7 Only 16 of the tombs certainly contained extra human burials. and the extent of the burial chambers within is greater than that in any Egyptian pyramid. Here there were no grand pyramids – these came later – instead a whole necropolis of shallow burials. Bonnet 1992: 622 Source 5: Double burial – one of these was probably a sacrificial victim © www. One or two adults and up to seven children are sometimes found beside the main subject. What evidence is there for human sacrifice at Kerma? 2. lying on a wooden bed. where certain members agree to follow one of their own in death.ch Source 6: Burial with sacrifices © www.kerma. Adams 1984: 49 Source 3 Each of the large tumuli contained a mud brick burial chamber.ch Source 4 We see a noticeable increase in human sacrifices. some with gruesome secrets.kerma. At the present time. Source 1 The largest single tumulus [burial mound] at Kerma had a diameter of 90 metres. The number of sacrificial human burials within this tomb exceeds that of any other known tomb in the world. Welsby 1996: 89 Questions 1. These contained the bodies of up to 400 human beings who appear to have been buried alive. Besides the main burial chamber there was a large open room. in another the bed was of slate. a man. Why might there have been human sacrifice at burials? Source 8: Bed British Museum . Trigger 1976: 16 Source 2: Large burial mound with ox skulls © www. These bodies were accompanied by a few artefacts and many were of women.kerma.

.. Source 1 Much that was produced at Kerma was heavily influenced by Egyptian techniques of manufacture and design. [Yet] Kushite art still kept a distinctive character of its own. There might be Egyptian influences. Kushite artists were clearly not simply stealing ideas but also adapting them.’ he confesses.’ MacLeod 1997: 7 Source 4 Many items of manufacture and design at Kerma have been thought to be products of Egyptian craftsmen fitting in with local tastes. jewellery.  How far do the written sources agree that Kush copied from Egypt? 3. ‘But step by step. Have a look at these examples of art that were discovered in Kush and see if you can spot any similarities. The rich at Kerma greatly admired Egyptian civilisation and ordered for their own use skilful copies of Egyptian furniture. Welsby 1996: 177 Questions 1. How much are they copying Egyptian styles? 2.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 4: HOW GREAT WAS EGYPTIAN INFLUENCE ON KUSH? It is perhaps not surprising. O’Connor 1984: 65 Source 5: Ankh symbol imported into Napata (2nd Kingdom of Kush) British Museum Source 6 Throughout their history the Kushite artists were continually borrowing from the current artistic trends in Egypt. ‘I came to understand that the Nubian [Kushite] civilizations are really extraordinary. Trigger 1976: 14 Source 2: Sphinx with features of Taharqo. weapons and even architecture. but there is a Nubian originality and a Nubian identity. that Egypt and Kush should have had many things in common.  The three pictures come from Kush. ruler of Kush and Egypt Source 3 Bonnet admits that he went to Sudan to find Egyptian civilization. But it is equally possible that local [Kushite] craftsmen used Egyptian techniques to produce goods adapted to their own culture.  Would you agree that Kush did not have an art style of its own? Source 7: Shabtis of Taharqo British Museum . given their geographical closeness and historical development. presumably to their own artistic traditions.

The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 5: HOW SKILLED WERE KUSHITE CRAFTSMEN? Kush is inevitably compared with Egypt in terms of its arts and crafts. Hafsaas-Tsakos 2009: 66 Source 5: Bowl (Kerma) British Museum Source 6: Cup (Meroe) British Museum Source 3 In the early Kushite period pottery was on the whole rather drab and is comparable with the low level of artistic merit of much of Egyptian ceramics.. Source 1 The most distinctive products of the Kerma culture were ceramics. Source 8: Amphora (Meroe) British Museum Source 9: Faience perfume vase (Meroe) British Museum Source 10: Gold jackal (Meroe) British Museum . as well as pots of high artistic value. where local craftsmen made razors and daggers of bronze. Welsby 1996: 163 Source 7: Pottery (Meroe) British Museum Task Search the British Museum’s website to find larger versions of these images so that you can decide on the skills of Kushite craftsmen.[Later. The potters were able to produce incredibly fine vessels by hand.. The relations with Egypt also inspired specialized production at Kerma. Although we cannot be sure that some of these objects were not imported from Egypt. without using a wheel. faience vessels. under Greek influence] Kushite fine white wares and egg-shell wares are amongst the most competent products of potters of any period in the Nile valley. wooden furniture decorated with carved figures of mica and ivory. British Museum Source 4: Bronze razor (Kerma) British Museum Source 2 Kush was not totally dependent on Egypt for precious objects for the use of the rich. see if you think they show good craftsmanship.

Kohl was very commonly used as a cosmetic. What else can you learn about Kushite society from these sources? Source 8: Head of a king British Museum Source 9: Sherd of pottery with Meroitic writing British Museum . Welsby 1996: 51 Source 6 Closely cropped hair is the most common hairstyle. Edwards 1998: 186 Source 5 Life expectancy may have been a few years less than the 20–25 year expectancy in Egypt.  What do the statues (source 4 and 8) tell you about the power of the rulers of Kush? 2. The queen is enthroned. the prince is behind. What other evidence is there of royal power and control? 3. Source 2: Royal sceptre British Museum Source 1 The priests of Meroe were apparently able to decide when the king should die. At Meroe royal ladies are shown on reliefs sporting very long fingernails. This is sometimes decorated with a small topknot. especially about the power of the rulers. and by tradition the king accepted their decision as having divine authority.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 6: WHAT CAN WE LEARN ABOUT KUSHITE SOCIETY? Although we are learning more each year about Kushite society. a method of personal adornment still used in the Sudan today. quoted in Welsby 1996: 32 Source 4: The god Amun protecting King Taharqo British Museum Source 3 The main centre for the collection and administration of goods seems to have been the royal palaces: the main temples do not appear to have acted as major economic institutions as in Egypt. Welsby 1996: 52 Source 7: Sandstone relief from south wall of funerary chapel of Queen Shanakdakhete. A number of adult females had nails and hair stained with henna. British Museum Questions 1. and both figures are protected by wings of Isis. These sources may supply some clues. Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC). we don’t have the same level of knowledge as we do about Egypt.

business rather than military or political figures. and ointments. due to its location in the centre of a fertile basin and at the crossroads of desert routes linking Egypt. cattle) also contributed to the city’s [Kerma] wealth.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 7: HOW IMPORTANT TO KUSH WAS TRADE WITH EGYPT? Kush occupied a strategic position in terms of trade. nor of the goldfields. Hafsaas-Tsakos 2009: 66 .  How important was Egypt to Kush’s prosperity? Source 8 The control of the trade networks with the north. ivory. and so could supply this material that Egypt craved. Adams 1977: 216 Questions 1. oil. ivory. used for storage British Museum Source 4 A text mentions the Kushites’ fondness for Egyptian honey. as well as the supply of raw materials from the south through trade and raiding. How was Kush useful to Egypt? 3. Source 1 The motive for the Egyptian expansion [into Kush] was to take control of the trade in slaves and African exotics such as ebony. ebony. as well as for woven garments.. the Red Sea and the heart of Africa. We may assume that forced labour was only one of the means by which Kushites had access to this material: trade with the desert dwellers would have been a more reliable option. Welsby 1996: 169 Source 6: Kushite gold jewellery British Museum Source 7 A small. Which goods did Egypt want? 2. Not only was it close to the gold mines.. Hafsaas-Tsakos 2009: 60–61 Source 3 Trade (gold. elite group of Egyptian officials oversaw the manufactures and the export trade of Kerma on behalf of the Kushite ruler. Mission archéologique Suisse au Soudan 2010 Source 2: Ostrich egg. however. and hides from wild animals. Adams 1984: 41 Source 5 There is no evidence for the working of gold mines by the Kushites. as well as to obtain raw materials such as gold. incense. They were. ostrich eggs and feathers. appear to have given a boost to the rise of Kush. animal hide. but it also controlled the route along which goods from the heart of the continent passed. precious stones. copper and precious stones.

ch Source 4 The climate is not ideal for vines. Surplus produce. Welsby 1996: 37 . archaeologists have found the remains of large water tanks (hafirs) which suggest that the government took responsibility for water supply. collected as taxes. the administration. and get paid. Welsby 1996: 173 Source 3 There would have been a number of individuals who were not food producers. How was the problem of water solved? 3. Those who didn’t grow food still had to eat. some of them clearly designed to demonstrate the military power of Kush. Others think that most people worked the land at subsistence level.The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 8: HOW IMPORTANT WAS THE GOVERNMENT IN THE KUSHITE ECONOMY? As there was no coinage in Kush. Source 1 Some scholars believe that the Kushite economy worked as a redistributive system. A number of ancient writers record that cotton was grown in Kush. although limited local production did occur.  What evidence is there that the state organised the economy? Source 7 The construction of water tanks involved considerable organisation and mobilisation of workers. The development and use of iron was thus partly responsible for the very success. Edwards 1998: 185 Source 8 The state [of Kush] showed off its presence at these hafirs [water tanks] by building temples and statues.kerma. What did Kush produce? 2. historians are unsure how the economy worked. Shillington 1995: 43 Questions 1. As their use in recent times has shown. growth and wealth of the Meroite kingdom. they would have needed an efficient government system to ensure they were regularly maintained. was then shared out by the state... contributing nothing to the state and receiving nothing from it. This might suggest that the collection of grain. may have been organised by the state © www. Welsby 1996: 158–159 Source 5: Wall of a hafir at Basa Source 6 The main industrial craft in Meroe was smelting of iron and the making of iron tools. In the desert regions. the priesthood and the royal family. Twelve structures identified as wine presses have been found in the north of the kingdom. Iron provided the farmers and hunters of Meroe with superior tools and weapons. These included members of the army. Welsby 1996: 173 Source 2: Ovens Large groups of these have been discovered near grain stores. and baking and distribution of bread. We have no evidence to show how these people were paid.

The wealth of Africa The kingdom of Kush SHEET 9: BURIAL AT KERMA Source 1: Illustration by Tayo Fatunla Questions 1.  Why might some of these people be glad to be buried with the King? 4. Describe what is happening in this picture 2. Is everyone happy to be accompanying the King into the tomb? 3. What does this tell you about Kushite society? .

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